Mating digital photography with film seems to me an alluring yet ultimately quixotic endeavor; who doesn’t love the idea of a camera that combines the weight and handling of a 35mm SLR with the convenience and precision of a digital one? Yet it has never been done, and likely never will be. Reflex is the latest to try, though, with a brand new 35mm camera built for the modern, smartphone-toting photographer.
The idea behind the crowdfunding campaign was to create a sort of system-agnostic film SLR. The Reflex’s modular build means you can swap out the lens mount for any of the majors: Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and so on. Bigger lens selection is always good, but is that enough to make people want to buy in?
To sweeten the pot, the project is offering as Kickstarter rewards (in addition to the camera, of course) refurbished off-brand (but still well known) lenses: a Helios-44 56mm f/2 and a Pentacon 50mm F/1.8. It’s a fun bonus and the results should be interesting.
The film back is removable as well, but you have to stick to 35mm; you can’t swap in 120 or something.
In front you have a regular flash but also an LED illuminator that gives a steady light. That’s definitely not something you found on SLRs in the ’70s, but it could prove useful.
The most modern component has to be the Bluetooth unit. If the project hits £150,000, an app will be developed that the camera will sync its settings to, letting you know exactly what settings you had for a given shot. I would have preferred an electronically-activated shutter for timelapse, app-triggered exposures, and so on — but maybe that proved too hard to implement.
The magnesium alloy body has a sort of generic look to it, but I’m glad to see there’s a grip bump on the right and a secondary shutter release on the front. The viewfinder is a x0.86 magnification prism, but the focus glass style is “still under debate.”
But why buy one of these instead of getting a used 35mm camera just about anywhere and using that? I couldn’t really tell you — they both seem like perfectly good options if you want to shoot film.
The advantage of the Reflex is of course its flexibility — it would be fun for lens collectors — but also the fact that it’s new. Used cameras might have light leaks, old corroded batteries that are out of production, creaky or rusty mechanisms, and so on — mint condition isn’t always an option if you don’t want to pay top dollar. So for $450 you can get a Reflex and shoot film on something guaranteed to work well. At least, as much of a guarantee as you can get with something from Kickstarter.
There may be interesting new accessories coming down the line as well: “a range of accompanying accessories and technology” are on the way, apparently. That’s assuming the crowdfunding effort succeeds, I imagine — but at about 80 percent funded in one day, I’d say they have a good chance. At the very least it’s nice to see people attempting to bridge analog/digital divide in photography.